Situational leadership applied to the dissertation process


  • James W. Holsinger Jr.

    Corresponding author
    1. College of Public Health, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky
    2. College of Medicine, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky
    • 121 Washington Avenue, Suite 107, Lexington, KY 40506-0003, USA
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For more than 40 years, concern has been expressed over the attrition rate of students in Ph.D. programs in American universities. Although there are a number of significant factors at work, attrition of doctoral students in sciences such as anatomy may lead to a dearth of trained teaching anatomists as well as research scientists in the anatomical sciences. Failure to complete the Ph.D. process including the dissertation carries a high cost, not only to the students who fail to complete their programs, but also to society at large due to the expenditure of scarce education resources. A variety of factors have been examined in the various studies, but two stands out of major interest for this article: student personality factors such as perseverance and the level of faculty mentoring/support to the students during the graduate education process. A new approach to providing faculty support based on the needs of the individual student is presented in this article. Situational Leadership® has been developed over the past 40 years by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard and their associates. This leadership model is unique in that when it is applied to the dissertation process, it requires the faculty member to determine the readiness level of the graduate student. Because each student is a unique individual, the faculty mentor assesses each student based on the specific task at hand in order to provide the appropriate style of mentorship each student requires. Anat Sci Ed 1:194–198, 2008. © 2008 American Association of Anatomists.